Introduction: Functional LEGO Nutcrackers

About: This is the official Instructables profile of Baron Julius Alexander von Brunk, an eccentric multimedia artist in New York City! Baron von Brunk is widely known as a master LEGO craftsman whose work has been p…

These nutcracker models are made from 100% LEGO, and can open/close their mouths with the pull of a lever! Built just in time for Christmas 2015, I present to you an intermediate project that you can build yourself. Within this tutorial you'll find the LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) files in addition to parts resources, and design notes of the construction.

Although these models use the same leverage functionality to open/close their jaws like real nutcrackers, these particular models are meant for decorative purposes, and not intended to attempt to crack larger nuts. In fact, authentic wooden nutcrackers are essentially the same, and are meant for holiday decorations, as they can get damaged from cracking larger nuts. Therefore, if you want a practical tool to break open the shell of a walnut, but a metal nutcracking tool -- but if you want a quirky, festive decoration to put on your shelf or cabinet, then build one of these bad boys!

Like all of my previous LEGO tutorials, you're absolutely free to deviate from the color schemes, and swap out the colors/parts with your own design, so long as you follow my basic construction pattern. In fact, the second nutcracker (the green one) was based on the design template of the red model, only slightly retooled and given a different hat.

Step 1: Using LEGO Digital Designer

LDD is a free program produced by LEGO Group. It's a CAD tool for making virtual instructions of LEGO models, which has a parts library built into it. Using this software, you can import one of my various guides for the nutcrackers and follow the step-by-step instructions for producing the particular nutcracker of your choice.

To view the step-by-step instructions within the LDD file, choose the building guide mode in the top right corner of the program. This section will generate a guide to start and end the construction of your chosen mode. Please note: LDD does its best to generate a build guide based on the steps, however its algorithm isn't always accurate. Sometimes it'll place later steps early on in the project, thus making the construction of the project seem non-linear. Always use your best engineering judgement to look ahead and plan steps accordingly.

Step 2: Red Nutcracker

The red nutcracker is the base model, and uses a traditional toy solder design with a shako hat. To open this model, run the program LEGO Digital Designer and view the model. To see a list of necessary parts with colors, click on File and select Export BOM: this will generate a spreadsheet of parts with images. Using this list of parts, I recommend going to an online LEGO dealer like and selecting the necessary pieces to purchase. This model in particular has 444 pieces, which may seem like too many for a novice builder. Hence, this is an intermediate project to tackle.

When assembling the model, be sure to construct its body parts independently, then attach them from the ground up. For instance, it's best to assemble the torso, head, hat, arms, legs, and base separately, then starting with the base, place on the legs, torso, arms, head, and hat (in that order). Press down enough so that the body parts snap together securely, but not too strong as the force would crush the nutcracker into pieces.

The weakest spot on the model would be the neck; this area unfortunately only has a few plates to hold it together, which means the model can wobble and topple over if its jaws open and close to much. If it wobbles too much, it might fall over, and that flimsy head comes right off! Again, this model is intended for decorative purposes, and shouldn't be played with as a toy, nor used as a tool for cracking nuts.

Step 3: Green Nutcracker

The green nutcracker is a clone of the red model, but has a few noticeable changes aside from obvious color swapping:

  • The shako is replaced with a crown
  • The mustache uses different horns, and is larger
  • The shoulders have epaulettes near the collar

With this model, the crown on top of the head is a bit tricky to get right, as it's rather delicate, and requires using hinge plates to create a round effect. This model has slightly more pieces than its counterpart, and according to its parts list this contains 448 pieces.

Step 4: Less Yacking, More Cracking!

Congratulations: if you've followed the steps properly and run into a minimal amount of errors, you've now got a new little plastic buddy to be your companion. Despite my best engineering efforts, these little statues are somewhat flimsy and can topple over if jostled too much. Be gentle when pulling the lever to activate the jaws, and try not to use any large nuts like walnuts, lest your little buddy's head will break apart -- and that would just be a real downer for this holiday season.

I hope you enjoyed this project, and with any luck you don't run into any of the frustrations I had with building these two impish plastic guardians.

Photo credits: Julius von Brunk

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